On the surface, good workplace relationships can make your day more enjoyable and easy-going. Whether it’s a quick chat over a coffee or a bit of banter on Slack, it’s always worth getting along with your colleagues. But there’s more to be gained from workplace relationships than simply being friendly with them. There are all sorts of different benefits to be gained from strong working relationships.
But if you’ve struggled to build them in the past, or you’re starting a new job soon and want to get off to a great start, then how do you go about forging them? Below, we’ll offer up some top tips for establishing strong relationships, as well as the benefits they can provide you with in your career.
The benefits of building relationships in the workplace
As we’ve hinted at, there’s a lot of rewards instore for those who build and maintain strong work relationships. Here are some of the more significant ones:
- More job satisfaction: If you don’t get on with your colleagues, it’s going to make the day that much more of an uphill battle. Employees who maintain strong relationships, however, can tackle their tasks with more enthusiasm knowing they’re surrounded by people they’re on good terms with.
- Greater confidence: When people don’t get on, they’ll feel less inclined to speak up and share ideas, causing them to shy away from participating in meetings and group discussions. Colleagues with strong professional relationships, however, will feel empowered to make suggestions without worrying about negative feedback.
- Increased colleague support: Colleagues on friendly terms will be there for both moral and practical support, helping you out whenever you’re in a pinch whether it’s work or otherwise. This creates efficient, productive teams that work towards goals on both an individual and company level.
Tips for building workplace relationships
Know what you want from your relationships
Relationships mean different things to different people. What do they mean for you? Before you do anything else, identify how you’d like your relationships to play out. Is it strictly a social thing, one where you see yourself hanging out with others after work? Or do you want the kind of relationship where you can benefit from others’ skills and vice versa?
A lot of this means getting to know yourself – which means identifying your skills and weaknesses to see what you can already provide, and the areas you may need to work on.
This obviously only applies if you’re starting a new job, but it’s worth getting right. Introducing yourself to your new colleagues during your first week shows you’re open to communicating with others, and that you’re excited about learning more about the work culture and how people approach their duties. It’s a great way to get your relationships off to a strong start.
Practice active listening
Relationships obviously go both ways. But if you’re the one doing all the talking, you’ll only get half of the benefits. By getting in the habit of actively listening, however, you’ll be able to get the most out of your relationships. Active listening ensures you’re fully present in the conversation, providing you with the skills to fully understand what’s being said, overcome disagreements and improve productivity – all of which can massively improve your relationships with others.
Sometimes you’re relationships can become a little too strong. It’s great that you’re able to get on with everyone, but remember: you’re also there to work. If you’re finding yourself socialising more than usual, then you may need to rethink things. To restore balance, communicate to others when you need to get your head down and focus on your work duties. There are plenty of powerful time management tips use can use to minimise distractions too.
Office gossip, whatever form it takes, is best avoided if you want to maintain strong relationships. Rumours and hearsay sow distrust and negativity throughout the workplace, wasting energy that could otherwise be better spent being positive and productive.
If you do have a problem with a colleague, take the professional approach rather than talking behind their backs about them. Try having a polite, honest conversation with them. If that doesn’t help things, then a meeting with a superior may be able to resolve the conflict instead.
Offer to help out
If a colleague is struggling to get through their do list, then offering to help them out is a great way of forging the trust and openness that all strong relationships have. Inquire what the issue is and let them know that you’re happy to pitch in. You might not always be able to aid them, but being proactive about helping others definitely won’t go unnoticed.
Ask for help
Similarly, you can strengthen your network by asking for help when you need it. Attempting to go solo could end up hurting your output – especially if you’re working on a team project that others are counting on you during. Asking for help opens you up to collaboration, lets you learn more about how others work, and gives you a chance to add to your skillset. So whenever you’re in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask!
Last but not least, don’t forget to show your gratitude to others. Whether you praise their work or buy them a small gift after they’ve helped you out, being thankful of your colleagues is an act that will very much appreciated.
The differences between personal and professional relationships in the workplace
When it comes to workplace relationships, it’s important to distinguish between the personal and the professional. There’s a fine line between the two that often becomes blurry, and when that happens miscommunication and misunderstandings can occur.
It’s easy to see why that can happen. Across both kinds of relationship, people strive to be respectful, responsible and polite. And if things go awry in either, then we should have the right tools to resolve conflict properly. However, there are also key differences.
Personal relationships are concerned more with things like love, trust and compassion. Professional relationships, on the other hand, don’t place as much of a focus on these qualities. As such, they’re less like a friendship – although they can easily blossom into one. Instead, they’re created in a more strategic manner, so that everyone can meet company and career goals. For this reason, they can be more transactional and formal: there’s a degree of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” that personal relationships shouldn’t be based around.
Likewise, professional relationships have limits that make them distinct from personal ones. The intimacy of personal relationships tends to be absent from the professional equivalent. Without these limits, people may misread situations, overshare with colleagues and make others feel uncomfortable as a result.
The importance of building trusting relationships in the workplace
The trust and respect that come with strong relationships make them a vital part of any workplace. Without them, workplaces – and businesses as a whole – can easily become toxic. And when that happens burnout, poor mental health and employee turnover can all occur as a result.
Conversely, strong relationships make workplaces a much more enjoyable, efficient and productive place to work. And the positives they create can easily become an ingrained part of the culture, which companies can then use as a competitive advantage when hiring new talent. Put simply, strong relationships have the power to strengthen entire organisations.
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